I have a shelf on my desk where I keep books that I’ve finished but haven’t reviewed. There are several books that have been sitting there for a month or more that I keep meaning to review… and then can’t find much to say about despite having generally good feelings about them. In the spirit of decluttering my desk, I’m going to dispatch with a couple of these unread remnants in one quick post. Here we go!

hunting season by mirta ojitoHunting Season by Mirta Ojito

In November 2008, a group of teenagers in a small town in Long Island attacked and murdered Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Ecuador. In the wake of Lucero’s racially-motivated murder, the town became a central location in a nationwide debate about immigration. In Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Small Town, Mirta Ojito uses this story to explore how hate can manifest under the surface of a small town and illustrate larger questions about our nation’s policies towards immigrants.

I was interested in picking this one up because I live in a small town that has a (relatively) large Hispanic community thanks to a couple of larger agriculture businesses in the region. Given that experiences, Ojito’s reporting on how an influx of immigrants can impact small communities felt entirely accurate to me. Unfortunately, the book overall felt a little flat — it just didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting out of a book on such a difficult topic. I’m not sure what the reason for that is, but it was something I remember thinking after I finished the book.

the good spy by kai birdThe Good Spy by Robert Ames

On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people.  The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East – CIA operative Robert Ames.  What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values – never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace.  Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America’s relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust.

As you can probably tell from the summary, The Good Spy is a book that has a lot of moving parts. As a result, it’s very information heavy, but for the most part it didn’t feel bogged down in relaying too many facts at the expense of story. The narrative moves along quickly, and Ames’ biography provides a useful timeline for anchoring a bigger story about the struggle for peace in the Middle East. This was one of the more comprehensive yet readable books on that topic I’ve picked up, although it may not be narrative enough for every reader.


Currently | We’re Moving!

by Kim on July 20, 2014 · 21 comments

currently july 20 2014

Briefly // The boyfriend and I are moving! We signed a lease on a new rental house last weekend and are gearing up to move into the new place on August 2. It’s quick, trust me, I know. I’m not sure what that is going to mean for the blog over the next month or so, but I’m hoping it won’t be too disruptive.

Time and Place // 8:25 a.m. on my sister’s couch in the Twin Cities.

Eating and Drinking // Fage Greek yogurt and water

Reading // This week I finished three books, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, and Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. I’m still thinking about Bad Feminist, but honestly, I’m not sure if I loved it or not. Rat Queens is part of my foray into comic books thanks to ComiXology and the inspiration of Book Rioters Rebecca Schinsky and Amanda Nelson.

Watching // My sister and I finished watching Merlin together last night. The boyfriend and I rented 21 Jump Street on Friday (funny and dumb) and a friend and I went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past on Tuesday. It was a busy week of watching!

Listening // I’m still making my way through Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand on audio. It’s amazing so far. Hillenbrand knows how to tell a story, and Louie Zamperini has an amazing story to tell.

Buying // Since we’re moving, I’m trying not to impulse buy any new books. But I did have a book on pre-order that arrived this week, Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This is a graphic novel about a young chef who discovers a way to have second chances on her life thanks to a magic mushroom. It sounds super fun. Also, the book for the Riot Read, a monthly book club from Book Riot, arrived – Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I want to start that one soon.

Blogging // This week I shared thoughts on two trilogies that I loved and some nonfiction recommendations on bananas and presidents.

Promoting // This tutorial on how to create bright and sharp phone photos from Elsie Larson at A Beautiful Mess was really helpful, since most of the photos I take casually are photos from my cellphone.

Hating // The prairie can get windy! Earlier this week I came home to see my container garden totally tipped over. The poor tomatoes.

Loving // We got a new Keurig for the office. I don’t drink coffee, but it’s fun to use to make tea and other specialty drinks. I had a lot of chai tea this week.

Wanting //I got it in my head that I really want to get a library book cart for my office at the new house. I think it’d be so fun to store review copies and whatnot on so I could keep track of them better.

Anticipating // I’m tentatively planning an unofficial “Nonfiction August” to start digging into the pile of books I brought home from Book Expo America that publish in September. I also haven’t read any seriously amazing, mind-bending nonfiction in what feels like months — a nonfiction binge should help change that, right?


Nonfiction Recommendation Engine: Bananas and Presidents

July 17, 2014 Nonfiction Recommendation Engine

The Nonfiction Recommendation Engine is a semi-regular feature in which I offer personalized book recommendations based answers to a short list of questions. My real hope with the series is that other readers will jump in with recommendations in the comments, making each post a great resource for nonfiction reads.  One of my friends from high […]

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Thoughts on Two Trilogies I Loved Reading

July 15, 2014 Book Review

This set of mini-reviews is a little different that others — I’m going to talk about two recently-completed trilogies that I’ve enjoyed since the first books came out. The first is a YA fantasy series where the magical elite, the Grisha, manipulate matter down to the very atom to summon and mold the basic elements in […]

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Currently | Festival Weekend

July 13, 2014 Currently

Briefly // Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes on last week’s Currently post. I had a nice day off on Monday and a generally chill day on my actual birthday, Tuesday. Twenty eight is gearing up to be a good year. Time and Place // About 8:45 a.m. at my desk. This weekend is our […]

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Giveaway: ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ by Katy Butler

July 11, 2014 News and Notes

On Wednesday, I shared a post with three books on the business of death. After the post went up, Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door, contacted me about doing a giveaway of the book here at the blog. I loved the book (here’s my review from last September) and think the book should get […]

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Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Bring Out Your Dead!

July 9, 2014 Book Review

This post originally appeared on Book Riot. In “Buy, Borrow, Bypass,” Book Riot contributors give brief reviews of their recent reads and advise whether you should buy, borrow, or bypass them. I’ve always had a bit of a dark streak in my reading life. I love a good true crime story and often pick up memoirs […]

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Currently | The Last Day I’m 27

July 7, 2014 Currently

Time and Place // About 9 a.m. at my desk at home. The company I work for gives employees an extra day off for their birthday each year. Mine is technically tomorrow, but I decided to take my vacation day so I can recover from vacation for the Fourth of July. I have an exciting […]

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Books for My Beach Bag: Summer 2014 Edition

July 3, 2014 Musings

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Every year that I can, I join my family and a ton of friends up my my parents’ cabin in northwestern Wisconsin for a long weekend of relaxing by the lake. Since it’s right before my birthday, it’s always felt like a special weekend […]

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June 2014 Wrap-Up and a Look to July

July 2, 2014 News and Notes

June has felt, to me, like a very unbalanced month. I got into a pattern of being really obsessed with one thing while ignoring all other things, then feeling bereft when the thing I was obsessed with came to an end. After a few days I’d switch to another thing to be obsessed with to […]

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